Wobble boards are used in the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries (injuries to soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments or tendons and bones). They are used most frequently in lower limb injuries, especially to the ankle and knee, although can also be used to treat upper limb ailments.
Many people will have heard of a wobble board, or will even have used one, but may not know why and how they are so beneficial to injury rehabilitation.
Wobble boards are mainly aimed at improving 'proprioception'. This is the body's sense of its position, which can be damaged following an injury, leading to an increased risk of future injuries if not corrected. Within the soft tissues are tiny sensors (proprioceptors) such as pacinian corpuscles and golgi tendon organs. These sensors send information to the brain about the joints position and movement. If you have ever started to go over on the ankle and automatically corrected it, this is down to the response of the brain after receiving information from the proprioceptors.
If there is damage to a tendon, ligament or muscle, there is usually also damage to the nerve endings in the tissue. This reduces the ability of the proprioceptors to send information back to the brain and therefore limits the ability to correct and control such movements.
The job of a wobble board is to re-train this sense. Wobble boards come in many different sizes, shapes and material and may be referred to as balance boards , wobble cushions or rocker boards, but essentially they all do the same job.
Research has shown that those who use a wobble board as part of a rehabilitation program following an ankle sprain are less likely to re-injure the ankle!
Exercises can start very simply, with a two legged balance. This can easily be progressed with many other challenges to the balance such as tilting the board, performing mini squats and closing the eyes! This can all be repeated on a single leg when possible. To challenge even the most advanced of athletes, a ball can be incorporated, with the athlete throwing and catching it against a wall or with a partner. This challenges the balance in a more unpredictable way, as occurs in many sports.
For very severe proprioceptive deficits, the board can be used in a seated position.
To improve proprioception in the shoulder or elbow, the board can be used with the individual on all fours and one (or two) hands on a board.